A civil war in The Civil Wars?
Went to see a sold out concert of The Civil Wars in Cambridge (England) a couple or three weeks back, having bought tickets back in May following their rapturous reception during their last tour of the UK.
And it was sold out, and The Lumineers opened, developing a brilliant rapport with the audience, a multi-talented band of modern folkies on a variety of acoustic instruments and even singing without mics at one stage. Think of Mumford and Sons with even more onstage exuberance. Brilliant – the best support act I’ve seen since Little Feat upstaged The Doobie Brothers on the Warner Brothers Tour in the early 70s.
So everybody was on a high for The Civil Wars- phenomenal voices, exquisite harmonies, some brilliant songs, electric onstage chemistry….but wait, where was that chemistry? I said to my wife and best friend that I could not feel the chemistry (and other friends who had been to a first tour date in March or so had positively raved about it).
And lo and behold, the next day they cancelled the tour, citing internal disputes. And since then, silence. Maybe John-Paul White didn’t like the sound of Joy Williams’ new baby crying in the wings, maybe she was wishing there was a bit more variety in tone and beat to their songs, maybe it was too soon after the birth – who knows.
I am not sure how many people felt the same as me, cos after the show people were in ecstasy over their voices and harmonies. And indeed, you cannot take that away from them, they were enjoyable to listen to, but the electricity of the live versions of their iconic songs, ‘Poison and Wine’ and If I didn’t know better’ was missing, and sadly, their interpretation of Bille Jean, which even on YouTube is mesmerizing, was, for me, flat.
I hope they return refreshed – I think they need more variety and perhaps move to more backing instrumentation, but I do miss Joy Williams’ voice. If you tire of the limited repertoire of The Civil Wars, take a listen to her earlier Christian pop albums – ignore the lyrics if you want to but marvel at her voice on the album ‘By Surprise’ from 2002. Truly a Joy